For the Time Being —
Notes from the Developmental Minister
Recent events in Charlottesville, VA brought back memories from 30 summers ago, when I went to Nicaragua as part of a Unitarian Universalist Witness for Peace delegation. WFP, which still exists, began in 1983 out of concern for the Reagan Administration’s funding of a guerilla war against the Sandinistas, who were in power after overthrowing the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza. Throughout the eighties, many faith-based delegations traveled to Nicaragua under their auspices. Our trip was in August of 1987.
The aim was threefold. These trips were educational, giving Americans the chance to meet with Nicaraguans of many perspectives, and to see for themselves the effects of US policy. They involved witness and advocacy, encouraging delegates on their return to share what they had seen and heard, and to seek to influence public policy accordingly. And there was an element of accompaniment; the hope was that the continuous, peaceful presence of people of faith would shield Nicaraguan peasants from the violence of war.
The message was clear, to stand with the community to say that hate has no place here…They had their guns and shields. We had our songs, our faith, our love. And we had each other.
Susan Frederick-Graay, Unitarian Universalist Association President
When white-supremacist and anti-Semitic groups showed up for a “unite the right” rally in Charlottesville, people of faith showed up in force to meet them. Susan Frederick-Gray, newly elected UUA president, was among them, along with other UU clergy and lay leaders. Looking at photographs of this peaceful act of witness and accompaniment, I was proud to see the bright yellow “Standing on the Side of Love” stoles and shirts interspersed through the crowd. “The message was clear,” writes Frederick-Gray, “to stand with the community to say that hate has no place here…They had their guns and shields. We had our songs, our faith, our love. And we had each other.”
On the Sunday night following, a few hundred Las Crucens showed up in the downtown Plaza. It was good to be there, and to see many of you. These times cry out for us to show up in the public square, bearing witness to UU principles of justice, equity, compassion, and the inherent worth and dignity of all. It’s especially important for those of us who are white to show up, to say loudly and clearly to supremacist groups, “You do not speak for us.”
As the late Elie Wiesel reminded us, “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”